Oath Keepers boss Stewart Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy



Rhodes’ intends to appeal, defence attorney James Lee Bright told reporters. Another Rhodes lawyer, Ed Tarpley, described the verdict as a “mixed bag”, adding, “This is not a total victory for the government in any way, shape or form”.

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“We feel like we presented a case that showed through evidence and testimony that Mr Rhodes did not commit the crime of seditious conspiracy,” Tarpley said.

On trial alongside Rhodes and Meggs, were Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper; Thomas Caldwell, a retired Navy intelligence officer from Virginia; and Jessica Watkins, who led an Ohio militia group.

Jury selection for a second group of Oath Keepers facing seditious conspiracy charges is scheduled to begin next week. Several members of the Proud Boys, including the former national chairman Enrique Tarrio, are also scheduled to go to trial on the sedition charge in December.

Defence lawyers accused prosecutors of twisting their clients’ words and insisted the Oath Keepers came to Washington only to provide security for figures such as Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally. The defence focused heavily on seeking to show that Rhodes’ rhetoric was just bluster and that the Oath Keepers had no plan before January 6 to attack the Capitol.

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In an extraordinary move, Rhodes took the stand to tell jurors there was no plan to attack the Capitol and insist that his followers who went inside the building went rogue.

Rhodes testified that he had no idea that his followers were going to join the mob and storm the Capitol and said he was upset after he found out that some did. Rhodes said they were acting “stupid” and outside their mission for the day.

Prosecutors said the Oath Keepers saw an opportunity to advance their plot to stop the transfer of power and sprang into action when the mob started storming the Capitol. The Capitol attack was a “means to an end” for the Oath Keepers, Assistant US Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy told jurors in her closing argument.

Jurors heard how Rhodes spent thousands of dollars on an AR-platform rifle, magazines, mounts, sights and other equipment on his way to Washington ahead of the riot. They watched surveillance footage from the Virginia hotel where some Oath Keepers stashed weapons for “quick reaction force” teams prosecutors said were ready to get weapons into the city quickly if they were needed. The weapons were never deployed.

On the day, Oath Keepers wearing combat gear were seen on camera shouldering their way through the crowd and into the Capitol. Rhodes remained outside like a “general surveying his troops on the battlefield,” a prosecutor said. After the riot, Rhodes and other Oath Keepers went to an Olive Garden restaurant to celebrate, according to prosecutors.

The trial revealed new details about Rhodes’ efforts to pressure Trump to fight to stay in White House in the weeks leading up to the riot. Shortly after the election, in a group chat that included Stone called “FOS” or “Friends of Stone”, Rhodes wrote, “So will you step up and push Trump to FINALLY take decisive action?”

Another man testified that after the riot, Rhodes tried to persuade him to pass along a message to Trump that urged the president not to give up his fight to hold on to power. The intermediary – a man who told jurors he had an indirect way to reach the president – recorded his meeting with Rhodes and went to the FBI instead of giving the message to Trump.

“If he’s not going to do the right thing and he’s just gonna let himself be removed illegally then we should have brought rifles,” Rhodes said during that meeting, according to a recording played for jurors. “We should have fixed it right then and there. I’d hang [expletive] Pelosi from the lamppost,” Rhodes said, referring to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Three other Oath Keepers previously pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. The last time the Justice Department had secured such a conviction at trial, though, was in the 1995 prosecution of Islamic militants who plotted to bomb New York City landmarks.

AP, Bloomberg



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